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Notable Recent Publications - August, 2022

Notable Recent Publications features the latest empirical research and data related to indigent defense. Should you have suggestions, ideas for work that should be included, or trouble accessing any of the articles featured, please write to


Matthew Clair and Alix S. Winter, The collateral consequences of criminal legal association during jury selection, Law and Society Review. 
"How does a potential juror’s association with the criminal legal system matter during jury selection? ...We draw on interviews with 103 lawyers and judges in a Northeastern state to examine how court officials think about juror bias in relation to criminal legal association beyond felon status. We find that court officials often seek to remove people perceived to be offenders with lower-level forms of system association as well as people perceived to be crime victims. These exclusionary efforts extend to also exclude perceived offenders’ and victims’ social networks. These practices are racialized and gendered, likely contributing to the systematic exclusion of marginalized racial/ethnic groups and women..."
Vitor Sousa Gonçalves, Lívia Bastos Lages, Victor Antunes Leocádio, Defenders at Law: Assessing the performance of legal defense on Drug Trafficking cases in Brazil, Crime, Law and Social Change. 

"...The current research investigated whether defense type affects the odds of conviction and incarceration length for drug trafficking cases in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte... [W]e found no difference in the performance of public defenders compared to private and assigned lawyers... We attributed these findings to the functioning of the criminal justice system as an assembly line, in which cases are mass treated. In the absence of reflection on the individualities of the processes, court actors end up making decisions based on stereotypes.... [C]ertain social types – perceived as “bandidos”...would be more likely to be labeled as dealers. In this context, the defense can do little to change the process course and its outcomes."

Johanna Hellgren and Saul M. Kassin, The Defense Lawyer’s Plea Recommendation: Disentangling the Influences of Perceived Guilt and Probability of Conviction Psychology, Public Policy and Law. 

"[W]e examined the extent to which defense attorneys’ plea recommendations are driven by their beliefs in the defendant’s guilt or innocence and by estimates of the probability-of-conviction at trial.... [P]articipants read a case file containing a police report; a defendant’s written confession or denial; a motion and ruling to suppress evidence...that was granted or denied; defense counsel’s interview notes in which the defendant proclaimed innocence or not; and the terms of a plea offer.... Consistent across both studies, the recommendation to accept a plea offer was driven more by the perceived probability of conviction than by perceptions of factual guilt or innocence.... Overall, these results suggest attorneys base their plea recommendations largely on pragmatic considerations..."

Mary M. Levi, Kellie R. Lynch, Jonathan M. Golding, Strength Versus Sensitivity: The Impact of Attorney Gender on Juror Perceptions and Trial Outcomes in a Rape Case. 28/9, Violence Against Women, pp. 2010-2032.

"We examined the impact of attorney gender on perceptions of a criminal rape trial. Community members (N = 208) read a trial summary describing a rape scenario in which the gender of the prosecuting and defense attorney were manipulated. The results revealed indirect effects of prosecuting and defense attorney gender on verdict through perceptions of characteristics related to attorney competency. Qualitative analyses further showed that the terms “strength” and “powerful” were central to juror perceptions of male attorneys, whereas the terms “sensitive” and “sympathy” were central when the attorneys were female."


Marea Beeman, Kellianne Elliott, Rosalie Joy, Elizabeth Allen and Michael Mrozinski. At What Cost? Findings from an Examination into the Imposition of Public Defense System Fees. National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

[From the Executive Summary.] "In 42 states, plus the District of Columbia, laws authorize courts to impose public defense system fees – both upfront application or administrative fees, and fees recouping the cost of counsel – on people who are represented by court-appointed attorneys.... [I]n no state with available data does collection of public defense recoupment fees amount to more than five percent of assessed recoupment costs.... [This] report documents the statutory authorization for public defense system fees in use across the United States...."

See also: this interactive map resource.

Book Chapter

Line Norman Hjorth Underlying Narratives in Courtroom Exchanges in Frode Helmich Pedersen, Espen Ingebrigtsen and Werner Gephart (eds.) Narratives in the Criminal Process. Vittorio Klosterman, Frankfurt 

[From the introduction:] "[This article focuses] mainly on narratives in the courtroom, which I view as nourished and partly shaped by stock stories of various kinds. I hope to contribute to the research on courtroom exchanges and storytelling by expanding on a notion which I, in my own research, have called underlying narratives... [T]he concept of underlying narratives seeks to illuminate how certain strategically significant narratives are promoted through language-use in court. The crucial point of this concept is that it connects the specific language use in the courtroom with the (often non-verbalized) narratives that are promoted by the different parties at trial...  I will discuss examples from a real courtroom exchange in a well-known criminal case from Norway, the so-called Orderud case."

Encyclopedia Entry

Carsten Momsen and Marco Willumat Due Process and Fair Trial, in Elgar Encyclopedia of Crime and Criminal Justice, Pedro Caeiro, Sabine Gless, and Valsamis Mitsilegas (eds.)

[From Introduction:] "The principles of due process and fair trial are important structural features of criminal procedure law around the world. After providing definitional remarks this entry shall present the major implications of these principles using the example of the criminal trial in the United States and Germany as one European jurisdiction in comparison. By that, we will be able to show the differences between the significance of the due process principle and the right to a fair trial for criminal trials shaped by the idea of an adversarial trial model in the United States in comparison to a (reformed) inquisitorial trial model found in Germany and most other European jurisdictions."


Erin Bernardy, The Reinvigoration of Compassionate Release: A Legal Mechanism for Decarceration in the Era of COVID-19. Masters of Social Work thesis, University of Washington.

 "Compassionate release court documents filed by the Federal Public Defender of the Western District of Washington between April 1st, 2020, and April 1st, 2021 (n=63) were qualitatively analyzed using content and thematic analysis. Arguments for release were organized around multiple themes including professional interpretation of compassionate release legislation, extraordinary and compelling reasons for release, and impact of release on public safety. Defense attorneys and judges varied in how they conceptualized compassionate release. There was also variation among judges in how they interpreted the viability of motions. These findings suggest that for compassionate release to be an effective strategy for prison de-population, the anti-release default within the criminal legal system must be addressed."

Anunobi, Chinyere, Limited Court Access v. Poor and Indigent. Honors Undergraduate Thesis, University of Central Florida.

In criminal cases, poor individuals must qualify as legally indigent to receive legal representation. In civil cases, poor and indigent individuals must find their own resources to support themselves since the government does not guarantee counsel. Without counsel, poor and indigent individuals are forced to find legal representation for these cases on their own, which can be difficult considering the expenses of fees and fines. Cognitive processes, including bias and stereotypes, create a barrier in advocacy because they cloud judgement of decision-makers, which can diminish the voice of this vulnerable community. Barriers like these create an invisible wall where limited court access restricts poor and indigent people. While there are many factors that contribute to this problem, the legal community has a responsibility to increase and promote education on reducing the impact of the invisible wall towards vulnerable communities.

Nefertari Elshiekh, Impact of Counsel Type on Initial Release Decisions and Case Outcomes. Honors Undergraduate Thesis, University of Central Florida

The present study uses misdemeanor crimes in Orange County, Florida from 2018 to explore whether the type of representation (private attorney, public defender, or no representation) a defendant had at their first appearance impacted their initial release decisions...., case dismissals, whether the defendant received a jail or fine sentence, and the sentence length and fine amount. [T]ype of counsel did not impact release decisions, bail amounts, and fine amounts. [H]aving a private attorney was associated with a greater likelihood of having the case dismissed when compared to those without representation and to those with a public defender. [H]aving a private attorney versus a public defender was, on average, associated with a seven-day lower jail sentence. [H]aving a private attorney was associated with a lower probability of receiving a jail sentence (the most severe punishment) as compared to those without representation and those with a public defender. Having a public defender was associated with a greater likelihood of receiving a jail sentence as compared to those without representation.

Amy L. Hurd A Case for Social Workers as Investigators in Public Defender Offices, School of Social Work, University of Alabama.

"This article raises an opportunity for social workers to broaden their capacity within public defense by pursuing investigator positions.. Evidence is offered to support the notion that social workers bring skills and a social justice orientation to investigative work that can provide for fresh insight and innovation in investigation and defense strategy. The value brought to investigation by social workers throughout a legal defense is specified, as are considerations for applying and interviewing for investigator positions as social workers."

Jyen-Yiee Wong, Rachel Warren, Sneha Chowdhary & Tiffany Pham The Public Defense Project: Exposing the technology needs of Public Defenders & their community. Masters of Information Management and Systems final project, Berkeley. 

"[We] outline the significant challenges that public defenders face when handling data and technology, identify opportunities for technical and political solutions, and describe constraints that technologists and privacy advocates should consider as they pursue solutions. We focus, in particular, on opportunities to improve surveillance data extraction and processing methods for public defenders, opportunities to expand case management and database management capabilities, and opportunities to explore data and resource sharing for public defenders within and between public defense offices."